I think it's time for a change...

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Raising Eyebrows and Subscriptions

For decades, The Economist promoted itself as the ticket to career success for white collar warriors. And whilst this approach fueled successful growth, it was often dismissed by people who weren’t interested in reading the handbook for the corporate elite.

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The Challenge

The Economist wanted to increase engagement and penetration within a younger audience who have either rejected it in the past due to the content being perceived as boring and impenetrable, or have never even considered it as it’s not on their radar. 

We needed to open up a brand new audience by spurring a sudden re-evaluation of everything they thought they knew about The Economist. We needed to persuade them to raise their hand and allow us to show them how The Economist was relevant to them, so that we could turn these rejecters into readers – and ultimately, into subscribers. 


The Solution

Our strategy came from an insight that underpins the publication itself – “There is nothing more provocative than the truth” – and we applied it to three tasks:

1. Provoke the intellectually curious. Surprise them with tailored, provocative headlines that showcase The Economist’s wit and intelligence.
2. Demonstrate The Economist’s relevance. Speak to them about the topics they’ve shown an interest in – when they’re most interested.
3. Give them their own ‘Economist epiphany.’ Nudge them to read more targeted content so they experience their own ‘epiphany’ and subscribe.

We used The Economist’s own content to stop people in their tracks and make them want to find out more. We scoured recent editions for the most provocative insights, the most fresh and arresting views, which may run counter to common wisdom. We addressed topics far outside business and finance and, of course, we showcased The Economist’s characteristic dry wit, tailored to this new audience.

We had to be very efficient in our media use – only digital display could provide the global reach we needed – but we had to use it extremely effectively. We used the combined power of content, creativity and context to surprise people, change their minds and stimulate action.

We broke the campaign into two phases - an initial spike to deliver a first pool of prospects we could re-target in the future, while translating initial learnings to inform lower-level, always-on activity.


The Results

The effect from this largely digital display campaign was incredible – and unanticipated. We directly provoked 5.2m new people into exploring The Economist content – a new addressable audience that is continuing to convert into subscribers. We have grown the paid subscription base by 64,405 (looking only at the uplift on sales from digital channels in a period when adspend was down, newsstand sales were down and pricing and promotions were static). The campaign is already responsible for delivering £51.7m in lifetime revenue and a revenue ROMI of over 25:1 from our year one spend of £2.03M. This is only the beginning. These subscribers are precisely the “Progressive” audience we were seeking – much younger than traditional subscribers and we’ve been addressing a historical gender imbalance, bringing more women to The Economist through this campaign. We’ve changed their perceptions of The Economist, with tracking showing more of them see the newspaper as relevant and compelling. And we’ve shown how even that most creatively derided channel – programmatic display – can deliver powerful, business-changing brand effects when you harness its full potential – the combined power of content, creativity and context. Raising eyebrows and raising subscriptions.

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